I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of making soap, but with little kids around I’ve also been paranoid about the dangers of working with lye. There have been some pretty amusing soap making “experiments” in my family, and stories about filling the kitchen with fumes made me even more hesitant. I won’t mention any names, but this is something I can (sadly) imagine doing myself. So a few months ago when I was in the market for a natural handmade soap, naturally I headed to fellow Indie Beauty Network member and Twitter friend, Cactus & Ivy.

Cactus & Ivy has a half dozen options for soap by the bar, and I chose two to try. The Calendula Sunshine Body Soap contains olive, palm, coconut and jojoba oils along with exfoliating calendula petals and the fresh fragrance of lemon grass. WOW is this a refreshing soap! The fragrance is wonderful, it lathers well, and it’s very gentle to the skin. Great soap to help you wake up in the morning! My husband and kids really like this soap, as well.

The second soap I tried was the Serene Face & Body Soap. I have always had very sensitive skin on my face, and more recently have had stress-related breakouts (delightful!). When I read the description of this soap, “fabulous for all skin types, including babies and sensitive,” I knew this was the one for me. I’ve been using this soap for about six weeks now, and I think I’m in love. If my skin could talk, it would say, “Ahhhhh!” This soap has olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, apricot kernel oil, macadamia seed oil, and kukui seed oil. It is super fatted and let me tell you, my face can tell. There is no rush for the lotion to avoid that skin-too-tight-for-my-face feeling that commercial soaps leave. There is no drying out, no redness, no blotchy areas. My skin has really calmed down. What a relief!

I also have to point out that this is an unscented soap, which gave me pause while I was ordering. I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years and have frequented health food and whole foods stores for ages, and in my experience “unscented” sometimes means “no fragrance added, but nasty natural odor included at no charge.” With Serene Face & Body, unscented means extremely mild vegetable oil fragrance. Very cool!

Cactus & Ivy have recently eliminated the honey and beeswax from their products so their line is completely cruelty-free and vegan. And not that I needed another reason to order from them, but I’ve been following Lisa Rodgers, the owner, at Twitter and I discovered that she has a goat. Check out this goat-milking photo from my personal archive. Yes, this is me. And yes, I do harbor a secret desire to go back to farm life and become a crazy goat lady with several dozen goats to milk and lots of skin-friendly goat’s milk soap to make. But until that happens, I’ll be getting my soap at Cactus & Ivy! Check them out for some great holiday gift ideas. (And some kickin’ soap.)